BIG READ: Questions raised over LNP pushing on with Rookwood
IN A cavalier move, the Queensland LNP has confirmed its commitment of $130 million to the Rookwood project, irrespective of whether the unreleased business case for the project stacked up.
The funding of the Rookwood Weir was part of LNP Leader Tim Nicholls' $1.3 billion plan to build critical water infrastructure and dams across the state, which would also complete planning and environmental impact studies for the Urannah, Nullinga and Burdekin Falls dams.
Standing with a sizeable gathering of LNP politicians and state candidates at Rockhampton's Ski Garden Boat Ramp yesterday, shadow minister for water supply Michael Hart shrugged off concerns his party could be committing to the construction of a "white elephant" to satisfy LNP's Central Queensland candidates who had strongly advocated for the project's funding.
"We are going to build the Rookwood Weir, we will be providing $130 million alongside the Federal Government's $130 million and we'll get on with this, what is a shovel-ready project," Mr Hart said.
"The Labor party have been stalling on this for 536 days, I think, since the funding for the business case was put forward," Mr Hart said.
"This business case has been hidden, along with a number of other hidden reports the government just don't want anybody to see. Where is it? Let's see it.
"But look, regardless of that, we are going to get on with building this weir and get it started in the first 100 days of government."
Mr Hart pointed to previous studies into the viability of the project, which guided his party's decision to guarantee the funds.
"This is not something new, this project has been through the wringer over and over again. Business cases have been done, feasibility studies have been done. It's stacked up before, it stacks up now and we're getting on with the job," he said.
"We have a weir here that will provide water security for this region, for Rockhampton and Gladstone, and we will also drought-proof this area by building this weir.
"This is 65000ML of available water that the people of this area need and they need it desperately."
When pressed on where the money was coming from to support the LNP's growing number of campaign promises, Mr Hart said his government would release its costings towards the end of the election campaign, adding that Rookwood was "fully funded and costed".
Minister for Northern Australia Matt Canavan said this project was about jobs, it was about security for Rockhampton and it was about agricultural wealth.
"We will deliver 2100 jobs from this project, we will drought-proof Rockhampton and of course it will lead to a billion dollars extra in agricultural wealth in the Fitzroy Basin and that will have flow-on effects right through our community," Senator Canavan said.
"It's exactly what we need and I want to thank the Queensland LNP for putting aside $1.3 billion across Queensland - these are nation-building projects to take our state forward."
Deputy LNP Leader and shadow infrastructure minister Deb Frecklington said the LNP would set up a Queensland Dam Company based in regional Queensland to ensure these projects got under way.
"The Dam Co will allow for investment in our dams by the Federal Government, which has billions of dollars ready and available for dams and water infrastructure - we need to get our share," Ms Frecklington said.
LNP Mirani candidate Kerry Latter, in whose electorate Rookwood Weir is to be constructed, welcomed the funding decision.
"At the end of the day, you can grow a lot in mud, you grow nothing in dust," Mr Latter said.
"Water is a cornerstone of economic prosperity. If we don't have it, we won't have the jobs, we won't have the growth or the exports.
"We've got a fantastic belt out here of good-quality land which can grow crops and have cattle on them, and we can further build the industry around that."
Rockhampton candidate Douglas Rodgers praised the funding decision, saying it was about jobs and providing water security for the region.
LNP candidate for Keppel Peter Blundell saw the decision as a monumental outcome for the community.
"I am so pleased that the LNP have listened to the needs of our region and have shown their commitment to supporting Keppel with this project," Mr Blundell said.
"We've heard the figures on water and we all know that water security underpins urban and agricultural growth and that's why local governments, economic development bodies and the Federal Government have all thrown their support behind Rookwood."
He said boosts in agricultural production, tourism and employment were positive consequences of the project.
Queensland's Minister for Water Supply Mark Bailey said committing to building these projects without proper economic and environmental assessments was the type of cavalier management of public money he had come to expect from the LNP.
"What the LNP confirmed today is how economically irresponsible they are prepared to be just to win regional votes," Mr Bailey said.
"LNP's spokesperson on water, Michael Hart, admitted that regardless of whether the Rookwood Weir business case stacks up or not, they're going to build it.
"In other words, if it doesn't, they will build a white elephant.
"Considering the Federal Government's $130 million is contingent on the business case stacking up, I'm not sure how they're going to magically make this happen if it doesn't."
He said all the LNP's policy amounted to was a list of infrastructure the government was already investigating or had already committed to, and some unwise promises to build infrastructure - Urannah Dam and Rookwood Weir - that hadn't been fully assessed.
Mr Bailey said the Queensland Government was progressing planning for 15 feasibility studies under the National Water Infrastructure Development Fund, including Nullinga and Urannah dams.
"We're making sure that we are doing this properly and ensuring these projects are viable. These are big, important projects and Queensland taxpayers deserve rigorous, transparent planning," he said.
The Queensland Government continued to await correspondence from the Turnbull Government to clear up whether or not it was committing double its original offer of $130 million in capital costs for Rookwood Weir, as stated by Capricornia MP Michelle Landry.